Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

Engendering a whole-school reading approach within one term

Hayle Academy, Hayle, Cornwall

Last September, I was appointed as the Literacy and Transition Coordinator at Hayle Academy. One change I was very keen to implement was to introduce Accelerated Reader; I’d used it in a previous school and saw a lot of success as a result. When we did bring in the program, the training we received was fantastic – the representative who came into the school was very knowledgeable and thoroughly prepared us to get started with the programme.

Drop Everything And Read

Accelerated Reader forms a core part of our whole-school approach to reading. Every day at 12 o’clock, everyone stops what they are doing and reads for 25 minutes, no matter what lesson is ongoing. This really gets across that reading isn’t an activity that’s confined to the English Department, which students often tend to think.

Teachers are expected to read during this time as well; students can see that staff enjoy reading too. This leads to conversations about what everyone is reading, what they’re enjoying, that you wouldn’t normally see in Geography or Science. It’s also lead to staff having a broader understanding of student ability. We’ve had staff from different departments say that they hadn’t realised that a student’s reading level was so low, which of course affects their ability to access text and access the curriculum. As such, Accelerated Reader and daily reading time are definitely informing our teaching.

Lunch begins as soon as the 25 minute reading session is over, so students have an opportunity to quiz straight away. We don’t allow students to take quizzes during the 25 minutes, but they also have opportunities before school and at break time.

A transformed reading culture in under one term

We recently administered our second set of Star Reading tests, and found that one student has improved his reading age by 4 years and 8 months since the start of term. I think a lot of the reason is that there hasn’t really been an expectation of students to read daily before. Another student has already read over 1 million words!

One of the best things about Accelerated Reader is its inclusivity. It’s not just for students who struggle with reading, it encourages everyone to read by promoting love and understanding of reading. We’re using the data from it to identify students who need further support, but also to celebrate reading achievements.

We offer a range of incentives; if a student scores 85% or more in a quiz then they can choose a reward from the small prize box, containing things like sweets, pencils and bookmarks. If they get three consecutive 100% scores they choose something from the large prize box, like bigger bags of sweets and notebooks. They also get to do this if they reach their points target for the term, along with a certificate; students are very points-driven. They each have an Accelerated Reader log, and on the front they write their termly points target, and record their current points after every quiz. The points, prizes and certificates are fascinating to them, and keep them excited.

For some lower ability students the programme also provides a sense of instant reward. They might struggle with a 15 page book even, but to be able to quiz, score 100% and be rewarded is a big accomplishment for them. Even the teachers get competitive over how many words their groups have read! We’ve really embraced the programme as a whole school, which makes students want to succeed.

Preparing for GCSEs with Star Assessments

We also make use of Star Reading with Year 7. We’re currently planning to administer it every half term, to regularly see where our students are at and quickly flag any need for further support. It’s very useful, it shows you how well a student comprehends something, and understands the question. Naturally they need to be able to understand the question before answering it, and there’s a prevalence of ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ questions, which are questions they need to understand to achieve at GCSE. As such, it’s really good practice for them.

We’re actually going to have our new intake come up for a transition day in July, where they’re booked in to take Star tests. When they start, we’ll already have accurate reading age data and know who needs additional support. The screening report in particular is great for visually showing us where students are, while indicating who needs further support.

Together, Star Reading and Accelerated Reader have revolutionised the school’s approach to reading. Every department is talking about Accelerated Reader and reading isn’t solely a matter for English. It’s a whole school approach, and it’s completely changed how students read and what we expect from them.

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